WHAT IS IT ABOUT ANIMALS AND US?
Animals are honest and will confront behaviours and attitudes immediately as they arise.
They are non-judgemental and affectionate
Horses and humans have an unlikely bond as prey/predator species. This unique relationship creates upheaval in our psyche. The horse is a large, powerful creature and has the ability to seriously harm a comparatively fragile human, yet they seek out our affections. They allow us to ride them, rug them and will jump mountains for us. Sometimes they allow us to mistreat them.
The horses survival depends on being part of a herd, therefore they are very social beings and highly attuned to their environment. They are aware of subtle changes in the environment, in the other horses and in other people. They respond to nonverbal cues and react authentically to them. Horses often reflect back what the human is feeling, when the human changes, the horse changes. Each horse has a different personality and temperament just as each human does, what works for one horse may not work for another one so the client must observe and alter their own behaviour and break old patterns.
Clients will often project their feelings onto the animal, the client then becomes aware of their feeling, say fear for example and now has the opportunity to process that fear, see what works, what doesn’t and clearly see how the clients actions affect others- in this case the animal.
People who don’t relate well to others, an animal can offer unconditional love and does not care what colour your skin is, your gender, your verbal capacity or what your past is. Animals offer a healthy, safe, non-threatening attachment for clients who have difficulty with humans. Eventually this social interaction and connectedness can be passed over to other parts of the client’s life. The client can direct their love and touch onto the animal and it is socially acceptable for man, woman and children to caress and hug an animal. The client can learn gentle, attentive touch attending to the animal’s immediate cues and needs.
Animals as teachers and friends
Adding an animal to the therapy session softens the power imbalance between client and therapist. It is well known that people with animals are seen as more approachable and trustworthy. The animal becomes a medium for conversation and often the client projects their own feelings and experiences onto the animal. This projection is a safe way for the child to express and disclose previous experiences.
The motivation to learn can be stimulated by the presence of an animal; through immediate experiences, the child sees to the needs of the animal and this can be passed on to other areas of the childs life. When learning new concepts, more information is retained when the student is emotionally invested. The simple experience of brushing an animal causes the body’s midline to be crossed over and over again activating the corpus-callosum stimulating the brains learning centre.